05/18/2006 11:00PM

West is best for 'New Joysey'


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Had things worked out differently, New Joysey Jeff might have been bouncing around the Kentucky Derby field two weeks ago, or tossed into the thick mix of the Preakness Stakes this weekend.

But after New Joysey Jeff failed to muster any punch in the Arkansas Derby, his people decided to err on the side of sanity and brought him home to California. A bit of a thinker, and tending toward equine ADD, New Joysey Jeff needed his head reattached before he could get on with what could be a profitable career.

Trainer Mark Glatt has picked the Will Rogers Stakes on Sunday at a mile on the Hollywood Park turf to put New Joysey Jeff back to work. This would seem to make sense, since the colt is a grandson of both Relaunch and Dynaformer, not to mention the fact that he won his racing debut on the grass at Santa Anita last January.

"After that we wanted to see how far we could go on dirt with him," Glatt said Friday morning after training hours. "It didn't turn out quite right, but we expect he'll bounce back real good on the turf."

During the second half of the California 3-year-old season, that can be a very good thing. The Will Rogers kicks off a schedule traditionally heavy on grass opportunities. With the exception of the main-track Swaps Stakes at the end of the Hollywood meet, the major races for the division - the Cinema, Del Mar Derby, Oak Tree Derby, and Hollywood Derby - are all on turf.

After winning that first start, New Joysey Jeff came running to finish third behind Too Much Bling in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita, then split Refinery and Derby Trial winner Record in a two-turn allowance race. He was no match for A. P. Warrior, Point Determined, and Bob and John in the subsequent San Felipe Stakes, and his Oaklawn trip was an unmitigated disaster when he finished 12th of 13, lost in the wake of Lawyer Ron.

"He's probably not that quality of horse on dirt, but he's at least better than he showed that day," Glatt said. "He's been kind of a tough horse in that he easily gets distracted. At Oaklawn, things just kind of mounted up on him - his first ship, the big crowd, then standing in the 1-hole while they loaded 13 horses."

New Joysey Jeff also raced with blinkers for the first time in Arkansas, in the hope they would provide both focus and a bit more early speed.

"Yes, but I don't think we really got a true read on the blinkers," Glatt said. "Sunday's race will be a better test of that."

Monkeying around with the draw

How about a show of gratitude for the Preakness post-position draw show broadcast on ESPN last Wednesday afternoon? By turns frustrating, confusing, and ultimately meaningless, this squandered hour of dead air may have hastened the demise of a wrongheaded format.

Give credit to emcee Dave Johnson for soldiering through "the process," as he continually described it, and for trying to keep things straight. But any piece of TV business that can flummox bright guys like co-hosts Kenny Mayne and Randy Moss, not to mention trainer Michael Matz, deserves nothing less than network euthanasia.

If post positions are important - as they certainly are in the Derby and to a lesser degree in the Preakness - they deserve to be treated with the same rules that govern every other legally sanctioned parimutuel event run in this country. The blind draw - both fair and, in its own way, dramatic - works just fine. For Churchill Downs and Pimlico to manipulate tradition in a desperate search for television exposure puts racing in a foolish light.

Then again, sometimes foolish can be downright funny. Horse racing made "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central this week in the wake of revelations that the voice-over used in an NBC feature segment on trainer Dan Hendricks during its Kentucky Derby coverage included a blatantly borrowed passage from another source.

"Every time we think we've measured our capacity to meet its challenges, we're reminded that capacity could be limitless," went the narration, delivered, though not written, by Tom Hammond.

"Moving words," offered "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, "though somewhat less so to anyone who had watched 'The West Wing' four years ago."

Here followed a clip from an episode of "The West Wing," with the following lines spilling from the mouth of Pretend President Martin Sheen:

"Every time we think we've measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless."

"So let me get this straight," Stewart said, once his studio audience had finished with their contemptuous laughter. "The schmaltzy sports features during a horse race have to borrow from the schmaltzy speeches on 'The West Wing'? Clearly television is now just as complicit in these plagiarism scandals.

"So, I here at 'The Daily Show' want to make a promise to you, the viewer," Stewart continued. "Nothing you ever see on 'The Daily Show' will be plagiarized, because from now on, our writers will be monkeys."

A fine idea, and when the show's on break, maybe the chimps can help pull post-position pills for the Derby and the Preakness. Now that would be great TV.